The Perfect Storm

Walking into the Georgia Dome today gave me goose bumps! No, not because the last time I was in there Coach Forbes and I almost got swept away in a Tornado, but because walking into that “football stadium” environment reminded me of the special run to the Elite Eight we went on last year in St. Louis. Hearing that horn go off as we beat Ohio State, seeing the sea of Orange sitting across from our bench and the stories people have told me about what they did and where they were as they cheered us on all came back to me. It’s that time of year again…March Madness, here we come!!

Describing this season as “up-and-down” would be an understatement, but we are excited and eager for this new season (postseason) and the opportunities and challenges it presents. First up, ourselves. Wait, what? Ourselves? I thought the Vols played Arkansas? Yeah, we do. But before we can lace ‘em up and go compete against Arkansas, we must make sure our minds are in the right place. There is no time to worry about the stakes we’replaying for, personal stats or some Georgia Dome UT curse people brought up yesterday. As Coach Pearl says, the only thing all of us–coaches included–can worry about is what we can control.

For the most part, our effort has been good enough to win the last few weeks, but our execution and decision-making has been inefficient. We can control that. In years past, our team has been structured in a way that has enabled us to play an up-tempo and high-possession style of play. Thus we have been able to overcome more bad shots and turnovers. However, because this year’s team has played a slower, grind-it-out tempo, a few bad shots, unforced turnovers or empty possessions throughout the game have often times been the differencebetween a win or loss for us. In football terms, we are a really good defensive team, but unfortunately we’regetting beat because it’s impossible to ask your offense to continually overcome Eric Berry pick-sixes, or Vandy-esque three-and-outs.

Therefore, despite our limited time on the court, we have done a substantial amount of work on our continuity offense. Coach Pearl went as far as demanding our players score out of this base offense or else they had to run 10 suicides. I’m happy to say, we only had to run once. He hasn’t done this since the preseason, and you couldsee a different urgency in our players as they attacked the basket. Defensively we worked primarily on shoring up our middle-ballscreen defense and rebounding. “Two hands,” “stunt” and communicate must have been yelled by our coaching staff 500 times throughout practice.

As each practice went on, we began working more and more on instilling our game plan into our players’ heads. Rewatching that tape, there are many things that we must change in order to get this W, and hopefully the adjustments we are instilling will pay off. The obvious key to their team is Rotnei Clark. A great shooter with a great motor, his activity and skill package will take the focus of their team. The scary part is, they have another very good player in Marshawn Powell and very intense, ball-pressuring guards that caused havoc against us earlier this year. We will have to play really, really well to beat them, but we all know we are capable of doing just that. Will we? We are working to do so, but at this point I’m praying for it as much as you are. Game 1 of our new season is here. Hopefully this year we’ll take this SEC Tournament and the Georgia Dome by storm!



About Mark Pancratz's Blog

A native of Schaumburg, Ill., Mark Pancratz played Division I basketball at UW-Milwaukee, earning his degree in marketing and finance. He joined Tennessee's staff in 2006 as a graduate assistant, earning his master's degree in sports management later that year. Serving as a G.A., director of video scouting and assistant to the head coach, Pancratz was an integral part of Tennessee's six-consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. At 26, Pancratz boasts an impressive 18 games of NCAA Tournament experience as a player and/or administrative staff member. He is a member of the Illinois High School Basketball Hall of Fame and voted one of the 100 Legends of Illinois High School Basketball. Pancratz resides in Knoxville and is married to the former Brooke Waddell.
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One Response to The Perfect Storm

  1. Dawn says:

    Hello Mark,

    Once again, thank you for these wonderful looks behind the scenes and into your head — and heart. I was at the games in St. Louis last year (one of only two I got to attend all year), and was sitting to your right behind the Vol basket. I’ve never felt like I did in the final minute of that game. I literally had trouble standing, I was so nervous and wanted to win so much. This team is capable of so much, and I look forward to the next few weeks with eager anticipation.

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